Published on June 12th, 2015 | by Sarah Jubb

Trooping the Colour

Each year the Queen’s official birthday is celebrated with a military parade and march past on Horse Guards Parade that is more commonly known as Trooping the Colour. This year the event is to be held on June 13th with the Welsh Guard celebrating their 100 year anniversary. As such, here at the Post Office Shop we thought we’d look into the interesting history of this annual event.

A Ceremony Fit For A Queen

The Queen’s actual birthday is April 21st but it has been a tradition to celebrate a sovereign’s birthday publicly in an official capacity since 1748, giving them two birthdays. This day full of military pomp and pageantry is usually held on a Saturday in June and is designed to capitalise on what is hoped to be good weather.

It is a parade that is steeped in ceremonial tradition and is participated by over 1400 troops along with 200 horses and many musicians to make it an exciting spectacle. The Queen carries out an inspection of the troops on Horse Guards Parade before it heads back down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. After this a 41-gun salute is performed by the King’s Troop in Green Park and a fly-past by the Royal Air Force is viewed by the members of Royalty in attendance.

A Centuries Old Tradition

Trooping the Colour gets its name from the regimental flags of the British Army which were known as ‘colours’ due to them displaying the colours and insignia of a unit. The unit’s ‘colour’ would be marched through ranks, showing they were still intact as the loss of a unit’s colour was considered a shame. This became known as ‘trooping’ the colour.

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In modern times only one colour is trooped at a time, and each of the five Household Regiments take turns to troop their colour. The regiments in question are the personal bodyguards of the Queen and include the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards.

While the policy of using Trooping the Colour to celebrate the Sovereign’s birthday began in 1748, the actual parade itself was believed to have been first performed during King Charles II’s reign from 1660-1685. It has been performed annually since the accession of George III and has only been interrupted by the World Wars and a national rail strike in 1955.

Commemorating The Event

In 2005 Royal Mail chose to celebrate the history of this prestigious event by releasing a series of special stamps that featured various images from Trooping the Colour. Included in this series is an image of the Queen riding on her horse Burmese, who was given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Burmese was ridden by The Queen for Trooping the Colour for eighteen years from 1969. After 1986 Burmese was retired and the Queen began riding in a carriage, which she still does to this day.

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